ELKTON — A 16-year-old Elkton boy has received a one-year jail term for his lesser role in the random, unprovoked stabbing of a stranger on the street of a North East-area neighborhood last summer, after accepting a binding plea deal, according to court records.
Cecil County Circuit Court Administrative Judge Keith A. Baynes imposed two five-year sentences on the defendant, Joshua Ryan Warren, for conspiracy to commit second-degree assault and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle - suspending four years of each penalty and making them concurrent - during a March 13 hearing, court records show.
The judge also imposed a concurrent one-year sentence on Warren for fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer in an official police vehicle.
Warren, who was 15 at the time of the August incident, pleaded guilty to those three charges as part of a binding plea agreement negotiated by Assistant State's Attorney Nathaniel Bowen and Warren's assistant public defender, Jason Ricke.
Also part of that binding plea deal, Baynes ordered Warren to serve three years of supervised probation after completing his one-year term in the Cecil County Detention Center.
Another condition of the binding plea agreement: Warren waived his right to reenter the juvenile court system if he has any criminal charges filed against him in the future, reported Steven Barlow, a Cecil County State's Attorney's Office spokesman.
Warren stole the car used by his three accomplices during the August incident in Lakeside Mobile Home Park. He later sped from Maryland State Police troopers in that stolen car, spurring a brief chase. Warner also was aware that the three passengers in his stolen car planned to randomly attack someone.
One of his accomplices, Marquis E. Benson, who was 17 at the time of the incident, is facing up to 25 years in prison after entering an Alford plea to first-degree assault during a February hearing. Benson's sentencing is set for April 24. (In an Alford plea, the defendant maintains his innocence while acknowledging that the state possesses enough evidence to convict him at trial.)
As part of that plea deal, prosecutors dropped attempted first-degree murder, attempted second-degree murder and several other charges against Benson, who played the major role in the incident.
Benson randomly attacked a 24-year-old North East-area man on Aug. 23, after spotting him walking in the area of Champlain Road and Champlain Court in the Lakeside Mobile Home Park while he and three other people, including Benson’s 17-year-old brother, were joy-riding in a Ford Escape stolen by Warren, according to court records.
After stepping out of the front passenger’s side door, Benson approached the man and stabbed him in the back with a knife as the man started to walk away from him, court records show.
Benson and his three companions sped away in the stolen vehicle, leaving the wounded man, police said. The victim was taken to Christiana Hospital in Delaware after he called family members for help, police added.
MSP troopers arrested Warren, Benson and their two companions at approximately 11:15 p.m. on Aug. 23, shortly after the stabbing, while chasing the Ford Escape in response to a stolen vehicle complaint, police reported.
The foursome ran away after the Ford Escape crashed on Route 7 near North East during that pursuit, and troopers captured them in that area a short time later, according to police.
Troopers then learned that doctors at Christiana Hospital in Delaware were treating a man who had been stabbed near North East in an incident involving a stolen white Ford Escape, which prompted an MSP investigator to interview the victim at that medical center, police reported.
Meanwhile, MSP investigators interviewed Benson and his brother separately at the North East Barrack. (Benson’s brother, who, according to court records, turned 18 one week after the incident, reportedly was charged as a juvenile.)
“(He) implicated his brother (Benson) as the passenger who stabbed the man . . . He also stated the four (occupants of the stolen Ford Escape) knew they were going to Lakeside to look for someone to fight,” according to court records, which indicate that Benson’s brother also told investigators that all of the occupants were aware there was a knife in that vehicle.
During his interview, however, Benson admitted only to a lesser involvement in the random attack - punching the man.
“Benson advised he likes to fight people and he knew that everyone in the vehicle agreed to ‘jump’ the first person they saw while driving through the Lakeside trailer park. Benson stated he was implicated in the assault by punching (the man) in the face as hard as he could," according to court records.
Benson also told investigators that Warren made all of his passengers aware that the Ford Escape had been stolen in Elkton, court records show.. Police reported that the Ford Escape, which is valued at $20,762, had been stolen from an Elkton resident, who later identified the vehicle as his.
The man who suffered the stab wounds told an MSP investigator that “a passenger exited the vehicle and approached him,” seconds before knifing him, court records show.
During a November courtroom hearing in which Cecil County Circuit Court Judge William W. Davis Jr. denied a defense motion to transfer Benson’s criminal case to juvenile court, the judge commented from the bench, “The most terrifying thing about this case is they were looking to randomly target someone. They didn’t know the person. The scariest thing . . . it could have been anyone in this room if you were unfortunate enough to be in the location where the victim was.”
The victim suffered puncture wounds to his lungs and diaphragm.
“He damn near killed him,” Bowen told the judge during the proceeding, after gesturing toward the victim seated in the gallery and commenting, “The only thing worse would be if he weren’t here.”
One of Warren's co-defendants, Jordan K. Fields, 19, of Elkton, is awaiting his April 3 sentencing after he entered an Alford plea to conspiracy to commit second-degree assault during a Jan. 22 hearing, The offense carries a maximum 10-year sentence. Fields occupied a rear seat, beside Benson’s older brother, in the stolen Ford Escape on the day of the incident, police reported.
The case against Benson’s older brother reportedly was handled in juvenile court.